Hey there Solidsmackite’s I’ve got good news. “There’s a mouse in the house!” Now don’t go faint of heart on me, as I’m talking about a computer mouse, not the four-legged furry type. Yep, a highly organic, fully surface modeled object constructed using Onshape the cloud-based CAD modeling software.

For those who have sought to surface model in Onshape in the past, this is news! Until recently Onshape had been pretty lean with regard to surface creation tools. Not so anymore! Check out the recent Onshape article I authored “How Does Onshape Handle Advanced Surface Modeling?” for the scoop.

The blog post is a high-level overview of a pretty extension CAD surfacing tool evaluation I undertook in collaboration with the folks over at Onshape. Owing to prior Solidsmack posts covering Onshape Advanced Modeling Tool Enhancements I gained an audience with Onshape’s developer relations guru. He specifically was looking to leverage my industrial design perspective and glean insights from my expertise in advanced surface modeling. After grilling me a bit, he straight up asked me “What can you do with Onshape as it stands today?” He then invited me to do a benchmark and to compile a few recommendations. We first decided on the topic “How Does Onshape Handle Advanced Surface Modeling?” Second, we brainstormed candidates that were sufficiently complex such as helmets, bike saddles and the like. We finally landed on the computer mouse and I was off to the races!

Evaluation Objectives

Heading into the evaluation these are the goals I set and discoveries I hoped to make.

  • What are Onshape’s available features for constructing complex curve and surface geometry?
  • How intuitive are these tools to use and locate within the modeling environment?
  • What is the degree of ease or difficulty to achieve a robust and parametric model?
  • Is the creation of complex curve and surface geometry straight forward or does it require workarounds?
  • To what degree could I analyze the quality of the geometry as it was being created?
  • Personally, is Onshape a good alternative choice to SOLIDWORKS for me and my industrial design students? If so, in what ways?
Keyshot 8 rendering – Mouse component part break-out plus button and scroll-wheel details.

Evaluation Take-A-Ways

  • Overall, I found the current UI layout to be straightforward. No one tool was buried too deep to find. The integration of the FeatureScript navigation helped me readily access the key auxiliary tools to complete the model build.
  • I had some initial challenges with endpoints of my projected curves, but quickly found an alternative construction method that was robust.
  • I did encounter what I would consider a workaround pertaining to edge manipulation of surface patches. I found extending and/or trimming edges cumbersome and in need of enhancement.
  • Correcting feature failures at times were a little touch-and-go as Onshape lacks a replace or reroute lost feature tool. However, the model tree flagged problem features and provided fly-out notes indicating the type of failure.
  • I leveraged the 3D Point, Extrude Vertex, Boolean Plus, and Change Edge custom features extensively throughout the model to augment the geometry construction.
  • With regard to analysis tools, the curvature plot served me well as I laid down my curve network. But when it came to surface mesh flow evaluation, Onshape lacked a tool to visualize how the U and V grid mapped across the surface. However, I discovered when using the Fill tool, I was able to (via a checkbox) toggle on view isocurves. The ability to analyze the quality of the Fill surfaces proved invaluable.
  • I appreciated being able to not only view my model in perspective but that this mode remains active while I continue to work. Onshape comes with a fixed camera focal length. It would be a nice addition to have the ability to adjust the focal length.
Keyshot 8 Rendering – Mouse top view shows complexity of geometry owing to asymmetrical design.

Rather than duplicating my Onshape blog write-up in its entirety, I encourage you to hop over to Onshape and check out my evaluation where you will be treated to in-process screen captures and feature descriptions in all their glory. Enjoy!

Until next time, keep learning. – Skillcoach


Vince has worked as Studio Engineer for consumer and medical product brands such as Whirlpool, Newell and ResMed Ltd. Australia. He's garnered 39+ patents and has designed everything from totes to toasters, and fiddles to furniture. He enjoys all things 3D and has carved out a niche as a Class-A Surfacing Guru. Active in both industry and academia, Vince serves as a Creative and Technical Skill Development Coach providing hands-on training and workshops pertaining to CAID/CAD. Vince relishes opportunities to keep learning and sharing what he's learned!